In the early and mid-1960s the abundance of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) in Lake Michigan declined abruptly. The decline began in the northern part of the lake and spread progressively southward. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the nonnative alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), by interfering with perch reproduction, was the primary cause of the decline. The alewife was first reported in northeastern Lake Michigan in 1949, and had become extremely abundant throughout the lake before an enormous die-off in 1967 reduced its numbers by an estimated 70%. An intensive fishery hastened the decline of perch. In most areas the decline was immediately preceded by a period of conspicuously high commercial production. This high production appears to have been related in part to increased growth rates of perch resulting from much lower density of younger fish. A sport fishery for perch in shallow water collapsed a few years before the species declined in abundance. The most logical explanation is that heavy concentrations of alewives physically displaced the perch from nearshore areas. Although perch populations increased in some areas in the 1970s, a full recovery is unlikely unless alewife numbers are further reduced.
Additional Publication Details
Changes in yellow perch (Perca flavescens) populations of Lake Michigan, 1954-75